Directed by William Brown
At Court Theatre, Chicago
Brilliant acting lands cultural rift drama into the land of polarizing views
Court Theatre, under the tight direction of William Brown and the impressive set design by Todd Rosenthal, have mounted a terrific production of Skylight. The performance by Philip Earl Johnson is mesmerizing, making the play worth seeing alone!
British playwright David Hare’s 1996 three person drama, Skylight, is a fresh take on the aftermath of two lovers reunited after three years apart. The writing is dense and intellectual in parts covering many topics including socio-economics, entrepreneurial beliefs and the rules of a love triangle. We met Kyra Hollis (Laura Rook), a 30something school teacher living in a frigid North London low-rent apartment. She is visited by Edward Sergent (Matt Farabee), an 18 year old boy and son of her ex-lover/employer Tom Sergent. Edward awkwardly gives Kyra news that his mother has died a year ago and that his father has not handled the death very well. Edward asks Kyra for help since there was so much history between Tom and her. Kyra appears to be not convinced since she has moved on with her life after the affair ended.
That same night, Tom (Philip Earl Johnson) finally pays Kyra a visit to her run-down flat. Tom is a rich restauranteur who lives the life style of the rich and famous. The meeting of the ex lovers becomes a passive-aggressive verbally intense debate over their history, their beliefs and their personal passions. Through a series of monologues, intense arguments, with some cooking throw in, Skylight becomes a smartly fresh take on the elements of character, that at one point, attracts two people to be lovers, and later, once apart, both realize that they had little binding them together.
Kyra always wanted to be a person who “makes a difference in the world” – first by being a loyal employee of Tom and as a family friend to Tom’s wife Alice. Then once Alice found out about the affair, Kyra left to become an intercity teacher. Tom always wanted more -more restaurants, more money, more than one lover (Alice and Kyra). Now after three years away from Kyra and one year after Alice’s death, Tom wants and needs Kyra in his life.
Th evening unfolds with heated debates, love making and realizations by each character. Hare’ s script covers the social class divides between Thatcherites and Socialists that dominated British life in the 1990′s. These philosophical arguments get quite personal when they are reduced to such questions as what do you need to get through the day? A belief system? A dedication to a cause? Survival? Absolution? Love? Or a burning desire for wealth? What are you willing to give, to sacrifice and to share toward those ends? Hare has crafted a deeply personal framework that explores such ideas making them personally relevant. In each scene two characters interact exchanging thoughts and desires.
This is an idea play that will have you debating it long after leaving the theatre. David Hare effectively argues both Tom’s and Kyra’s point of views. Each character’s point of view convinces us until we hear the other’s rebuttal. Ultimately trust decides things but only after a riveting evening of conflicted desires, aspirations, and ideologies. Hare’s brilliant writing is equalized by the expert work by Matt Farabe, Laura Rook, and especially Philip Earl Johnson.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 28, 2011
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472, www.courttheatre.org, tickets $45 – $65, Wed. & thurs at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 7 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hour. 10 minutes with intermission, through February 10, 2013